Frugal NationFrugal Nation

Leading by example may help some paycheck-to-paycheck pals get a handle on their finances.

By Donna_Freedman Jul 24, 2012 11:12AM

Image: Pennies (© Corbis)A recent post on MSN Money's Smart Spending blog made an excellent point: In the United States, it's acceptable to show off what we buy, but not very cool "to live within our means and be value-conscious."

"While we love a great deal, we don't want to cross the invisible line that suggests we need a great deal or can't afford to pay full price," according to author Kentin Waits, of partner blog Wise Bread


Obviously some people do need that great deal, or can't afford to pay the full freight. But Waits believes, and so do I, that plenty of "closeted frugalists" are out there, afraid to speak up about their lifestyles.

He has a solution, though, and it's pretty simple.


A new survey shows that 1 in 5 of us feels money pressure from pals. Must companionship be costly?

By Donna_Freedman Jul 23, 2012 4:00PM
Image: Friends (© Rubber Ball/Getty Images)Money can wreck friendships, or at least make them more expensive. Or so says a new survey from, which indicates that among U.S. adults:
  • 19% pay an average of $500 or more per year on gifts for friends.
  • 20% cited money as the reason for "friend breakups."
  • 21% have been pressured to spend as much as their pals.
In a consumerist culture it can be really tough to say, "I can't afford that." Here's my advice: Say it anyway -- but put it in context.  

National and regional publications can pay off big time throughout the year. But right now might be the best time to buy.

By Donna_Freedman Jul 20, 2012 12:03PM

Image: Girl eating ice cream (© Image Source Pink/SuperStock)Before there was Groupon, there were discount coupon books: national and regional publications full of dollars-off deals for food, entertainment and more.

The "more" part might surprise you. The price might, too, at this time of the year.


We're keeping our vehicles longer. But are we taking care of our investments?

By Donna_Freedman Jul 19, 2012 6:58PM
Image: Man working on car © Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Blend Images/Getty ImagesHow's the old heap running these days? I say "old" because we're keeping our wheels longer. The average age of U.S. vehicles reached an all-time high in 2011, according to the Polk auto data service: 11.1 years for cars and 10.4 for light trucks and SUVs.

Every year without a car payment is a good year. The best way to extend that obligation-free period is to be assiduous about maintenance. "Jalopy love: 5 dumb car-repair mistakes to avoid," on the blog, reminds us why being penny-wise is definitely pound-foolish.

For example, you should never ignore the "low fuel" dashboard light -- and not just because you might run out of gas.  

Sometimes paying for convenience is worth it. If that's busting your budget, though, try these simple tactics.

By Donna_Freedman Jul 18, 2012 1:30PM

Image: Parents and children eating at table © Maria Teijeiro/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Personal finance blogger Julia Scott just didn't get why so many people paid a premium for what she considered "unnecessary luxuries." Then she had a baby. Now she gets it -- but she doesn't like it.

"I'm worried I'm getting into the habit of paying to make tough situations go away. How do you maintain your resolve to be frugal under stress?" writes Scott, who blogs at Bargain Babe.

Her readers responded, and Scott followed up with a post called "19 tricks to avoid eating at restaurants." Are these ideas the answer?


Jewelry, trucks, microscopes, handguns -- online government auctions feature amazing variety, sometimes for pennies on the dollar.

By Donna_Freedman Jul 17, 2012 1:36PM

Image: Businessman with Megaphone (© Larry Dale Gordon/zefa/Corbis)Wanna buy a snowplow blade? A pool table? An infant CPR mannequin? A backhoe, portable Breathalyzer, non-flammable locker or a case of 1,323 disposable culture tubes?

Has the government got a deal for you.

These and a startling variety of other items are up for grabs in government property auctions.
Local, state and federal authorities put an ever-changing array of items up for public bid: decommissioned battleships, heavy equipment, lighthouses, fashion accessories, medical supplies, kitchen appliances, cold-weather gear, aircraft staircases and even strip clubs.


The recent bust of a multimillion-dollar counterfeit operation focuses attention on the ethics of saving money.

By Donna_Freedman Jul 16, 2012 3:00PM
Image: Coupon (© Tom Grill/Corbis)What may have been the largest coupon counterfeiting ring in U.S. history was shut down July 10 when police arrested three women in Phoenix. It isn't clear how much the trio may have cost retailers, but it could be as much as $600 million over the past four years. About $25 million worth of phony coupons were on the premises when police arrived, according to this ABC News report.

The fake coupons looked surprisingly legitimate. Allegedly, the women were having them printed overseas for sale online.

What does this mean to consumers? For starters, the chance of being arrested for fraud.


Think store-brand products couldn't be more affordable? Think again.

By Donna_Freedman Jul 13, 2012 11:56AM
Image: Groceries (© Tetra Images/Corbis)Private labels rule, and I'm not the only person who thinks so. A new survey from the research firm Accenture says 77% of shoppers would not stop buying generics even if their disposable income returned to post-downturn levels.

Certain store-brand products really don't taste/perform the same as their name-brand cousins. (More on that in a minute.) But if you buy enough generics, the money you save will underwrite the cost of the high-end brands.

Especially if you buy generics the way I do. 


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Donna Freedman's Frugal Nation blog is for readers who want to live cheaply -- whether due to necessity or a lifestyle choice. It explores living sustainably and making life more meaningful at the same time.


Donna Freedman

Donna Freedman, a writer based in Anchorage, Alaska, writes the Frugal Nation blog for MSN Money. She won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. Donna also writes about the frugal life for her own site, Surviving and Thriving.